Winning can be a salve that makes deep cuts feel like mere scratches.
The real pain should be hitting UCLA right about now.
The Bruins' 30-19 victory over then-19th-ranked Colorado State Saturday looks terrific on paper and the fourth-quarter highlights, but much of UCLA's performance was hard to watch.
Despite being the last of the 117 major-college teams to start the football season, the Bruins weren't ready.
Wasn't it enough of an omen when Akil Harris fumbled the opening kickoff not once, but twice?
He recovered the first and Tab Perry recovered the second, leading to one of the good-news statistics of the evening: At least the Bruins were four for four recovering their fumbles.
The final score says UCLA won big.
The final analysis says the Bruins made a few big plays when they had to and better buckle down in practice and get the kinks out fast.
Colorado State Coach Sonny Lubick called it like he saw it.
"We were the better team for three quarters," he said. "We could have just as easily won this game as not. Had we made the two-point conversion, who knows what might have happened."
The Bruin defense made the big plays, and from the looks of it, that's going to be UCLA's identity.
There was the determined swarm that met quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt as he tried one more option run on the two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the score with 1:32 left.
Van Pelt desperately tried to make a pitch, but UCLA's Ben Emanuel alertly grabbed the loose ball and raced to the other end zone for two points--the first defensive two-point conversion in UCLA history.
At the heart of the swarm was linebacker Brandon Chillar, who led UCLA with 10 tackles and thwarted a scoring threat with a third-quarter interception at the Bruin seven-yard line as Colorado State tried to pad a six-point lead.
And in the fourth quarter, cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. put a hit on running back Cecil Sapp that forced a fumble. UCLA recovered, and then Manuel White ran 16 yards for the touchdown that gave UCLA a 21-13 lead.
Take away those three plays--or even one or two of them--and UCLA probably doesn't win.
On offense, the Bruins didn't find any rhythm until the second half.
Their only first-half points came courtesy of the fleet feet of freshman Junior Taylor, whose spectacular 49-yard touchdown run off a reverse only made you want to see more of him.
What UCLA fans mostly saw was that quarterback Cory Paus wasn't very accurate--and when he was, Bruin receivers frequently dropped passes.
The running game amassed 215 yards, but 49 of them came on Taylor's run and Harris, despite 94 yards with a long run of 35, has planted the seeds that he might be a fumbler.
Freshman quarterback Drew Olson did better than anyone could hope and demonstrated plenty of poise. But that should only serve to make UCLA feel more comfortable about him as the backup to Paus, not make anyone hanker for a quarterback change because he completed two of three passes and directed a scoring drive.
UCLA's special teams--with the notable exception of the job the Bruins did fielding Colorado State's onside kick attempt after the two-point conversion play--were disastrous.
Chris Griffith, the Bruins' reliable kicker, missed field-goal attempts from 41 and 32 yards (the first was partially blocked).
Compare that to last season, when Griffith missed only three field goals, going 10 for 13--and one of the misses was from 50 yards on the final play of a 21-20 loss to Oregon.
There's more. The punt coverage team gave up a 55-yard return to the UCLA 15 by Dexter Wynn that set up Colorado State's first touchdown.
And the punt return team gave the Rams the ball back to revive a drive after UCLA was called for roughing the punter.
There's plenty to work on, in other words.
"In the first half, the kicking game faltered," Toledo said. "We missed two field goals.
"Also, in the first half, the passing game wasn't very good.
"But the defense played well and kept us in it."
Put plainly, the defense carried the Bruins.
Now their job is to see that the load isn't as heavy Saturday at Oklahoma State.